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Members of the sect in Germany prefer to pair off their children within the faith community, and regional congresses make for prime matchmaking territory. Her hair is delicately pinned up, arranged in bud-like clusters. " Melanie, 17, was baptized as a Jehovah's Witness at 14.
Like thousands of others, she has come to Dortmund with her family -- all of them strict believers, all of them dressed up for the special day -- for the annual North Rhine-Westfalia convention of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Having doubts about his faith, the oldest son stayed home.
It's a blow to the parents but the enthusiasm of their younger children compensates for the one son's lack of faith. family has traveled to Germany's Ruhr region for what many Jehovah's Witnesses consider the high point of the year.
The Public Hardly Notices In Berlin, the Witnesses meet in the Velodrom arena, in Munich, they gather at the Olympic Stadium, and in Frankfurt am Main, they plan to congregate in the Commerzbank Arena.
Though they occupy enormous venues, the public hardly notices their presence.
Dortmund is home to the largest district convention of Jehovah's Witnesses in the country.
The majority of those following the faith in Germany hail from the Ruhr region, which is densely populated and has relatively high unemployment. The girls' skirts might be a little longer and the children might look a bit more nicely coiffed, but it would be difficult to assign this group of people to any particular faith community.
The pamphlet, Melanie says, contains a lot of information on topics she is familiar with: what it's like to feel like an outsider at school, or to have false desires "for sex or self-gratification." The pamphlet also includes a chapter on how a young Jehovah's Witness can determine if a potential partner is right for him or her.
Yet many of them are victims of this community, which promises paradise -- but for many, becomes a hell on earth.
It's a community that presumes to have a say in who its young people marry.
They spend 40 hours per week doing missionary work, preferably side-by-side. They listen quietly to the speaker on the lawn below.
They sit close together, still and pious in the seats usually occupied by cheering, swearing fans of the Borussia Dortmund football club.